Game Recap: Pirates @ Braves 4/30/12

The 4 game wrap around series in Atlanta came to a close tonight with James McDonald facing Mike Minor.  A win would split the series with the Braves and end the month of April on a good note.

Minor set the Pirates down in order in the first, and Michael Bourn singled to start the bottom of the first.  Rod Barajas threw him out trying to steal second, but McDonald ended up walking Martin Prado.  Freddie Freeman then launched a home run into right field, making it 2-0 Braves early.  The Bucs got on the board in the third, with Barajas walking to lead off.  After McDonald struck out (not sure why he wasn’t bunting), Jose Tabata doubled to put runners on second and third.  Josh Harrison singled to left, scoring Barajas and putting runners on the corners.  Andrew McCutchen hit a sac fly to center, plating Tabata and knotting it at 2-2.  J-Mac struck out two in the third, bringing his strikeout total to 4 on the night.  The offense continued in the fourth, with Yamaico Navarro hitting a one out single.  Pedro Alvarez followed it up with his 5th homer of the year, making it 4-2.

Eric Hinske got a run back for Atlanta in the fourth, scoring Dan Uggla.  From that point on, it was all Pirates.  Yamaico Navarro made it 6-3 in the sixth on a two run homer, and McDonald continued to deal on the mound.  The Bucs tacked on three more in the seventh, with Tabata scoring on a passed ball, and Neil Walker and Yamaico Navarro each driving in a run.  J-Mac struck out the side in the seventh, and K’d his 10th batter in the eighth.  He ended up going 7 2/3 innings, striking out ten and giving up three runs.  Chris Resop got the last four outs of the game, although the ninth inning was a little shaky.  Bucs and Braves split the series, and we’re on to May.

Other highlights:
- The Bucs put up more than 5 runs in a game for the first time this year.
– All eight starting position players had a hit.
– Neil Walker picked up 3 hits, bringing his average up to .278.
– Pedro stayed hot, and his home run really sparked the offense.  When he’s hitting well, the rest of the offense follows.
– The Pirates finish the first month of the year at 10-12 (same record through 22 games as last season), pretty good when you consider the teams they’ve played.

Star of the Game: James McDonald.  McDonald had his second great start in a row, this time picking up a win.  Striking out 10 in 7 2/3 is as good as it gets, and the offense finally picked up their starter.
Goat of the Game: Mike Minor.  He gave up 7 runs in just 6 1/3 innings, and walked 3.  He did strike out 9 Pirates, but his overall start wasn’t very good.

Pirates (10-12) – Braves (14-9)

Win: McDonald (1-1)
Loss: Minor (2-2)

BOX SCORE

Go Bucs

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PNC Experience: Highmark Legacy Square

Unveiled in 2006, the Highmark Legacy Square is an exhibit at PNC Park to honor the Negro Leagues. The interactive exhibit, featured inside the Left Field Gate at PNC Park, preserves the history of the Homestead Grays and Pittsburgh Crawfords. Pirates.com describes how the elements of the Legacy Square “share the inspiring story of the remarkable people that helped revolutionize the sports and business world in their own way.”

The Highmark Legacy Square features seven bronze statues of Negro League players, as well as individual kiosks, which describe each player’s background, statistics, honors, etc. The following player statues can be found in the Legacy Square:

  • Cool Papa Bell
  • Oscar Charleston
  • Josh Gibson
  • Judy Johnson
  • Buck Leonard
  • Satchel Paige
  • Smokey Joe Williams

If you have some time to kill before the game, the Highmark Legacy Square is a place to check out. It is right next to Bucaroos food stand and adjacent to the Majestic Clubhouse store in left field.

For more information on the Highmark Legacy Square, click HERE.
For the Legacy Square’s Negro League timeline, click HERE.

Game Recap: Pirates @ Braves 4/29/12

Road Warrior Kevin Correia took the hill today at Turner Field against the Braves in the third game of the four game wrap around series.  Tim Hudson made his first start of the year for Atlanta, just coming off of the DL.

The Bucs had a chance to get on the board early in the first when Jose Tabata singled with one out an Andrew McCutchen got hit by a pitch.  Garrett Jones struck out and Neil Walker grounded out though, stranding the two runners.  Correia gave up a leadoff single to Michael Bourn, but rolled a double play the next batter to prevent a jam before it started.  The offense did get it going in the second after Pedro Alvarez and Michael McKenry both singled.  Alex Presley walked to load the bases, and Tabata slapped a single to right field to make it 2-0.

The bottom of the third was nearly disastrous after Cutch dropped a lazy fly ball off the bat of Hudson.  Michael Bourn walked, putting runners on first and second.  Martin Prado then hit an easy inning ending double play ball to Alvarez, who booted it to load the bases.  Freddie Freeman hit a sac fly to center, but Cutch caught it very nonchalantly and didn’t make a good throw to the infield.  This allowed every runner to move up, which put Correia in a bigger jam than he had to be.  Luckily he got Brian McCann to line out and get out of the inning giving up only one run.   The Braves tied the game in the bottom of the fourth when Tyler Pastornicky doubled in Dan Uggla who walked to lead off the inning.

Clint Barmes had a huge chance to drive in two runs and give the Pirates the lead in the fifth with runners on second and third.  Once again, the runners were stranded when he weakly grounded out to third.  Correia fell apart in the bottom of the fifth after giving up a single and three walks to walk in a run.  Brad Lincoln came out of the pen to keep the deficit at one, and struck out Chipper Jones.  Lincoln had one more hoop to jump through, facing Jason Heyward with two outs and the bases loaded.  He got him to ground out, closing the book on Correia.  Chad Durbin and Lincoln both pitched 1-2-3 sixth innings.

The top of the order couldn’t get anything going off of Eric O’Flaherty in the seventh, but Martin Prado hit a lead off home run to make it 4-2 Braves.  Lincoln got himself into another jam, giving up a single and a walk.  Tony Watson had to get the last to outs, getting Chipper and Jason Heyward to fly out.  Pedro had a one out double in the eighth, Casey McGehee and Josh Harrison struck out to strand another runner in scoring position.  The Pirates had the top of the order due up in the ninth, but were facing Rookie of the Year and shutdown closer Craig Kimbrel.  Jose Tabata was able to get something going, with a double to right field.  He advanced to third after Cutch grounded out, and scored on a wild pitch.  With the score at 4-3, Kimbrel struck out Garrett Jones looking, ending the game.

Other highlights:
Evan Meek pitched a scoreless inning, and was even hitting 94 MPH.
– Walker, Jones, Alvarez, and Tabata all had a double each.
– Tabata had a very nice game, picking up 3 hits and 2 RBI.
– Alex Presley’s hit streak came to an end at 12 games.
– Even with Correia’s collapse in the middle innings, the defense the main reason the Pirates lost.  The two errors in the third could have been much more costly than they were.

Star of the Game: Braves bullpen.  Durbin, O’Flaherty, Jonny Venters, and Kimbrel gave up 2 combined hits, and shut the Pirates down after 5 innings.  With the exception of Kimbrel’s wild pitch, the bullpen was shut down.
Goat of the Game: Andrew McCutchen.  His error was absolutely embarrassing and he left 3 runners on base with 2 strikeouts.  Cutch is obviously the superstar, and is allowed to have bad games, but today was pretty ugly.  Clint Barmes is a close runner up.

Pirates (9-12) – Braves (14-8)

Win: Hudson (1-0)
Loss: Correia (1-1)
Save: Kimbrel (8)

BOX SCORE

Go Bucs

Defending the Fort

While Rod Barajas continues to struggle at the plate (you can read our feature HERE), some fans are calling for Michael “The Fort” McKenry to become the starting catcher. However, is it realistic to consider McKenry as a starter? Sure, Barajas is struggling, but McKenry is a relatively unproven player who came out of nowhere last season. He immediately became a fan-favorite after hitting the big home run against the Cubs, but he hit just .222 with 2 HR and 11 RBI last season. In just seven games this season, the Fort has looked pretty solid.

We decided to take a look at how McKenry stacks up against the rest of the catchers in the NL Central. It is difficult to make assumptions since this season provides a very small sample size, but it still shows the progression of the various catchers in the division. Take a look:

  (stats as of 4/26/12)              
  Name G H HR RBI AVG OBP SLG
Cardinals Yadier Molina 18 17 3 12 0.27 0.329 0.54
  Tony Cruz 3 1 0 0 0.111 0.111 0.222
                 
Reds Ryan Hanigan 11 10 0 1 0.256 0.341 0.282
  Devin Mesoraco 9 7 0 2 0.28 0.387 0.32
                 
Brewers George Kottaras 12 6 3 8 0.333 0.52 0.889
  Jonathan Lucroy 16 12 2 6 0.261 0.352 0.457
                 
Astros Jason Castro 12 10 0 5 0.244 0.326 0.341
  Chris Snyder 9 4 0 3 0.138 0.242 0.138
                 
Pirates Michael McKenry 7 5 1 1 0.294 0.429 0.529
  Rod Barajas 13 5 0 0 0.122 0.163 0.171
                 
Cubs Steve Clevenger 10 11 0 2 0.5 0.522 0.727
  Geovany Soto 14 7 1 1 0.14 0.204 0.26

Here’s how McKenry ranks among the backups (the catchers with fewer games for their respective teams):
– 5th in games played
– 4th in hits
– 2nd in HR
– 5th in RBI
– 2nd in AVG
– 3rd in OBP
– 3rd in SLG

What does this tell us? Not much. It is difficult to interpret since each catcher has played different amounts of games, but it does show that he’s a pretty average backup. However, Barajas is the worst starter of the bunch so it gives McKenry more value. Still, he has not played in enough games (half as many as Barajas) to be considered a legit contender for the starting role.

If you give McKenry the nod as starter, how will he produce when given more at-bats and a heavier workload? He is popular among the pitchers and works well with them, but the same can be said of Barajas. However, it could make sense to split some time between the catchers. Looking at their splits, McKenry actually hit better off righties last season. He hit .239 off RHP, but just .167 off LHP. On the flip side, Barajas hit .267 off LHP/.214 off RHP last season. If they still have these comfort levels, why not give it a shot? The Pirates need as much offense as they can get, and every run matters. Hopefully the Bucs can put together a winning combination.

Go Bucs

Game Recap: Pirates @ Braves 4/28/12

After dropping last night’s game, the Bucs returned to Turner Field for game two of the series against the Braves. Southpaw Erik Bedard took the hill for the Pirates and righty Randall Delgado for the Braves.

The Pirates struck early when Alex Presley scored on a Garrett Jones sacrifice fly in the first inning to make it 1-0 Pirates. In the second, Rod Barajas scored on a Presley double, improving the lead to 2-0. Jose Tabata then knocked in Presley with a single, making it 3-0.

The Braves got on the board in the bottom of the third when Dan Uggla scored Martin Prado on an RBI single, cutting the Pirates lead to 3-1. The Pirates got back in the fifth when Pedro Alvarez knocked in Neil Walker with a double, extending the lead to 4-1.

Jason Heyward led off the bottom of the sixth with a double, and Juan Francisco got him in with a ground out, which cut the Pirates lead to 4-2.

Joel Hanrahan came in to close it out in the ninth. He got the first two batters (Francisco and Pastornicky) to strike out, and former Bucco Eric Hinske came up to pinch hit. Hinske drove one deep to right but Tabata made a spectacular leaping catch to end the game and raise the Jolly Roger.

Other highlights:
– Bedard’s final line: 5 IP, 1 run, 5 hits, 9 K, 2 BB
– Bedard was the first Pirates lefty to have at least 9 K in a game since Paul Maholm struck out 10 vs. the Phillies in 2008
– Combined, the Pirates pitchers struck out 14, a season-high. The Braves came into the came with the 4th-lowest strikeout rate in the NL
– Tabata committed an error which almost cost them, as he let Tyler Pastornicky‘s base hit in the sixth inning go all the way to the wall
– Pirates batters had not received an intentional walk this season until they saw two tonight, both to Rod Barajas
– Neil Walker got his first extra-base hit of the season with his double in the fifth
Jason Grilli struck out the side in the eighth
– Before Andrew McCutchen‘s double in the ninth, the Pirates were held hitless since Delgado exited the game
– Alvarez collected two doubles, and the team had five total
– The Pirates left 13 men on base

Star of the Game: Alex Presley. Another solid game from AP. 2 for 5, 2 runs scored, and an RBI.

Goat of the Game: Randall Delgado. Delgado was unable to get out of the fifth inning, and surrendered 4 runs on 8 hits.

Pirates (9-11) – Braves (13-8)

Win: Bedard (1-4)
Loss: Delgado (2-2)
Save: Hanrahan (4)

BOX SCORE

Go Bucs